Registration for the Ilısu Dam that will flood Hasankeyf

Registration for the Ilısu Dam that will flood Hasankeyf

Bad news came from the southeast town of Batman’s Administrative Court for the historic town of Hasankeyf, which is set to be flooded by the waters of the Ilısu Dam Project. The case that was opened by lawyer Murat Cano, who has been engaged in a legal battle for the last few years to save Hasankeyf, has been rejected by a majority of votes. As a result of the verdict, which only one out of three members opposed, the Ilısu Dam Project has been lawfully “registered.” Cano, however, said he would not give up, and that he would now take the case to the Supreme Court of Appeals as well as the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

The controversial Ilısu Dam has been discussed for years. Because of the ongoing debates, international financial institutions have withdrawn from the project, which was accelerated with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s new aim of finishing the dam by 2015 by special directives. The dam continues to be built by the Nurol-Cengiz joint venture and with the financial support of Akbank and Garanti Bank. It will flood Hasankeyf and about 550 historic monuments in the region. The government, and others who defend the project, argue that the historic heritage will be moved from the area and not be destroyed.

Cano is one of the volunteers who have been struggling to save Hasankeyf for years. He has been involved in a legal war since 2000. In an interview with daily Radikal, Cano claimed the Batman court’s verdict was actually illegal.

Cano, as he has frequently stated during the trial, said he was not against the Ilısu Dam Project per se. “The state can indeed request this project. It aims to produce 5 billion kilowatts of energy per year and irrigation for 120 hectares. I am not against this. But there must be a condition that national resources and historic monuments are not destroyed.”

His oppositions can be summarized thus:

- The rejection decision of the court is entirely based on “future prospects.” Moreover, the decision is retrospective. These kinds of verdicts used to be ruled during the March 12 military regime.

- In the justification, it is acknowledged that 550 settlements will be flooded. The member who objected to the verdict explained this in his 6-page opposition, where he accepts that the required projects have not yet been prepared.

- The expert report showed that there has not been any research done on the scientific, historic, architectural and aesthetic values of the monuments and monumental structures. There is no project on how these structures were to be protected or how they will be moved.

- The town of Hasankeyf and the region were declared as First Degree protected areas in 1978, and so are strictly protected archeologically and historically. There has not even been an inventory of the cultural heritage in this region. Any building built at a First Degree protected historical site requires the approval of the Protection Board. There is no such approval. According to international legislation, first protective measures must be taken and then investments should be planned. Here, however, the
process has been just the opposite.

- The court accepts all of these facts in its verdict, but argues that they will be done later. There is no control of compliance with the laws based on the future.

Cano also said the verdict of the court was totally based on “supreme public interest.” He does not agree that “supreme public interest” is a reason valid enough for investments that destroy the country’s reserved values.

Cano said he would continue his legal battle. First he will apply to the Supreme Court of Appeals. He will also have the verdict translated into French and immediately sent to the European Court of Human Rights.

“My very personal opinion is this: All reserved values of my country, its water, its flora, its wild life, its cultural heritage are either being pillaged, flooded or destroyed. If they do not exist, then there is no country,” Cano said.

Jale Özgentürk is a columnist for daily Radikal in which this piece was published on June 6. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

Jale Özgentürk -